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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 47, November 7, 2009

Requiem for the October Revolution

Saturday 7 November 2009, by Subrata Sen


On the occasion of the October Revolution’s ninetysecond anniversary we reproduce, with the author’s consent, the following piece that appeared in Nagpur Times eighteen years ago.

Facts must be faced. Masses in the Soviet Union are today bent upon doing away with all vestiges of the October Revolution. Attempts to “analyse” the developments carefully avoiding the cardinal issue of the Stalinist legacy are obviously ridiculous. The current mass upsurge in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are directed against the legacy of despotism, repression and genocide.

Within three days, the coupist Emergency Committee is reported to have placed orders for two-and-a-half lakh of handcuffs and stacks of arrest warrant forms. It is the certainty of such horrors that brought millions into the streets of Soviet cities to defy tanks and guns and caused exuberant euphoria amongst the Indian Stalinists, at least initially. Any attempt to explain the collapse of the Soviet system on the basis of developments after March 5, 1953 (when Stalin died) is patently untenable. It does not explain why the Soviet citizen looks longingly towards American capitalism and not the halcyon days of Stalin. Neither Maoist accountancy nor belated admission of Stalin’s mistake can provide an adequate explanation.

Capitalism cannot provide a cure for the principal ills of human existence today, exploitation and alienation. This is abundantly clear from more than two centuries of capitalist development. Sooner or later, even in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, masses must return to a search for an end to these evils, and only Marxism can point the way. This is what makes the resurgence of the Marxist movement inevitable.

Marxism or Stalinism?

However, no brand of Marxism or socialism or communism can henceforth be acceptable to the masses, particularly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, unless it is free from the least taint of Stalinism. Also, if by a conjuncture of history, impossible to visualise today, a Stalinist group is catapulated to power somewhere, the likelihood is that they will usher in the abominable horror that was Kampuchia under Pol Pot, rather than an authentic disctatorship of the proletariat, the paradigm for which is the Paris Commune, a perfect example of what in current jargon is called participatory democracy.

It must be remembered that critical Marxists, who have rejected Stalinism ab initio and refused to be manipulated or dictated to by the Kremlin bureaucracy, have always maintained that Stalinism is a degeneration, debasement and perversion, in many ways a negation of Marxism. Marxism is the materialist conception of history. Stalinism is the manipulative conception of history, the paradigm for which is the infamous History of the CPSU (B), Short Course, reputed to have been prepared under the personal supervision of the great infallible dictator himself; believed to have been his handiwork in large parts. Marxism is not only revolutionary and scientific socialism, it is also revolutionary and scientific humanism. Stalinism is blatant negation of humanism. Marxism stands for a programme of dictatorship of the proletariat; Stalinism stands for a programme of dictatorship over the proletariat. Communists disdain to conceal their aims, said Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Antonio Gramsci’s journal Ordine Nuovo used to print on its musthead the motto, ‘Truth is revolutionary’. Such candour and honesty is possible because of the moral grandeur of the objective of the dictatorship of the proletariat which even a staunch opponent of Marxism as Bertrand Russell had to concede. When this is abandoned for a programme of dictatorship over the proletariat, suppressiong veri suggestio falsii and outright lying must become the way of life.

Humanism Must

The harsh truth is that the Stalinists have consciously and deliberately adopted this anti-humanist perspective and programme decades ago. To lose faith in mankind is a sin, said the great humanist seer, Rabindranath. The Stalinists have committed this ultimate sin long, long ago. They have lost faith in humanity, more particularly they have lost faith in that large section of humanity, whom they used to call the socialist third of the mankind.

As a result, they assumed that this large segment of humanity can be put down and kept down by brute force for all time to come. As a result, they assumed that they would be able to distort history permanently with their Goebellsian lies.

Only this assumption can explain their enthusiastic support for the crimes of Stalin and his successors. Only this assumption can explain their indifference to their compatriots who perished in Stalin’s purges. Only this assumption can explain their indifference, if not hostility, to the rehabilitation of Stalin’s victims. Only this assumption can explain their pathetic attempts to discuss the current Soviet crisis, carefully evading the issue of the Stalinist legacy. Total exorcism of this anti-humanist legacy is the first precondition for the resurgence of Marxism.

(Nagpur Times, November 7, 1991)

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